Medicine on-the-go: Self-serve pharmacy kiosks hit Arizona marketplace

Convenience is key for consumers. Individuals are always looking for easy-to-access, always-readily-available services in their life.

Express Scripts and MedAvail Technologies are helping deliver that service in a place that needs it most: the pharmacy.

The two companies piloted MedCenter™, an automated, self-serve center, that provides patients a more accessible and affordable pharmacy experience.

“Technology – and a culture shift – allow us the opportunity to evolve and simplify health care services to better accommodate our busy schedules, which in turn can lead to better adherence and outcomes,” Express Script’s Chief Innovation Officer, Glen Stettin, M.D., said in a statement. “We’re very interested in technology that makes things easier for the consumer, and also promotes health and safety.”

“I think it really brings pharmacy into the current time. It’s allowing pharmacy to catch up, but what’s really important, in our mind, is it allows us to position pharmacy where the consumers are and where the patients are,” Ed Kilroy, CEO, MedAvail Technologies said.

The pharmacy kiosk, which operates under pharmacist supervision, accepts both handwritten and electronic prescriptions, allowing patients to receive their chronic, acute, and/or over-the-counter medication safely and securely in under 90 seconds.

According to Kilroy, MedCenter provides patients with “the opportunity to do something else with their time, so, as a consumer, can decide where [and] when you want to pick it up.”

The companies announced the pilot program in June, saying it would deploy six kiosks in Phoenix and Tucson at a variety of locations such as grocery stores, pharmacies and medical clinics.

According to Jennifer Luddy, Express Script, Director, Corporate Communications, the companies currently do not have any data about the pilot because it is a multi-year collaboration that will continue to examine information as more kiosks are deployed across Arizona and Illinois.  

In fact, the companies plan on there being a total deployment of 15 in Arizona by the end of 2018.

And while there may be some who are worried about the safety of these machines and how they dispense medicine, the companies had to get approval by the state board of pharmacy before deployment.  

MedCenter’s technology ensures the safe and secure dispensing of medication to patients. Similar to an ATM, the kiosk is built with security features (e.g., the kiosk is bolted to the floor, cameras are installed) to prevent theft and tampering,” Luddy said. “MedCenters are located indoors and are built to keep medication within their labelled temperature requirements. Controlled substances and medications requiring special handling, such as refrigeration, are not dispensed by MedCenter.”

Stettin believes that the technology could help pharmacies increase their efficiency while also allowing them to relieve congestion, extend hours of operation, and focus on providing clinical care to patients.

Express Scripts also expects more state boards of pharmacy to approve this technology in the future.

“I think in the future you’re going to see the MedCenter influence pharmacies the way ATMs influenced banking,” Bill Patterson, Senior Director New Solutions, Express Scripts, said. “For the consumer, the kiosk means safety, choice, and convenient access. At the end of the day this is about meeting people within the floor of their lives and giving them another choice and option for filling their prescriptions.”

Emily Richardson

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